Dr. Maud Goodnight: Transforming Students’ Lives for Four Decades

After 41 years of service in higher education, Rowan College of South Jersey’s (RCSJ) Dr. Maud Goodnight is ready to move on to her next transformation—retirement. Wearing multiple hats during her tenure at Cumberland County College (CCC)/RCSJ, the University Center executive director has witnessed both personal and institutional changes over the past four decades, educational shifts that have grown the College and expanded opportunities for her treasured students.

Hired as a Student Support Services counselor in 1979, the Mullica Hill resident began to climb the ladder at CCC and before long was tapped to become the executive director for Enrollment and Academic Services, and then the Center for Academic & Student Success. Now in 2021 as she prepares to begin the next chapter in her life, Goodnight leaves her post as executive director of the National Science Foundation Adelante Juntos grant and the federally funded Title V program. Helping students receive the assistance they need to succeed in getting a higher education, and in life, has always been her primary motivational factor.

“I really enjoy making a difference in students’ lives,” said Goodnight, who received her Doctorate in Education at Rowan University. “Calculating it, documenting it and having positive outcomes—I enjoy that tremendously.”

While making a difference in students’ lives was at the top of Goodnight’s list, as head of the University Center, she also had visions of uplifting the community, as well.

“Our mission is really to help support more families with higher education, more job opportunities and pathways to successful employment within the county,” the educator said. “We don’t want to contribute to the brain drain. We have a lot of talent and that is a challenge for our area.”

Goodnight has witnessed the College go through countless changes and myriad evolutions. “We were very small when I first started and we made it up to 4,200 students at our peak in 2010–2011,” she recalled. “And, the number of programs, the number of graduates, and the arts have flourished. We really have been able to grow. Now, our next step is to reopen as a really healthy institution and continue offering these wonderful opportunities in-person and online.”

One thing that has not changed in the last 41 years, according to Goodnight, is the abundance of first-generation college attendees who enroll at the school. “We are still accepting students into this institution whose parents do not have bachelor’s and master’s degrees,” she said.

Many of those first-generation college students are Latinx and of Indigenous descent. As executive director of the Adelante Juntos and Las Vias programs, Goodnight has played a leading role in helping underserved students—as well as RCSJ—reach higher levels. For example, the goal of the Las Vias program is to increase communication, outreach, and advisement support services for first-generation and Hispanic students in order to promote a steady connection with advisors, strengthen academic performance, and increase the potential to graduate.

“All of our students increased in their persistence and in their graduation rates,” Goodnight proudly noted.

While Goodnight has observed multiple changes over the years, one in particular will leave an indelible imprint on her mind.

“The transformation of the students that I got to see personally,” she revealed. “The transformation from entering college to graduation is remarkable and demonstrated by their confidence level, their ability to express themselves, to ask the right questions, to seek out their next degree, or whatever their next step happens to be. It’s just a really wonderful transformation to see that growth. That’s my memory—the transformation at Cumberland.”

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